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Surging Back

September 13, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

In politics, money often comes with an implicit message. A new report out today from the Center of Responsive Politics indicates that members of the military, a traditionally Republican group, seem to be contributing to congressional and presidential campaigns in a pattern that makes their message very clear:

>Since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, members of the U.S. military have dramatically increased their political contributions to Democrats, marching sharply away from the party they’ve long supported. In the 2002 election cycle, the last full cycle before the war began, Democrats received a mere 23 percent of military members’ contributions.* So far this year, 40 percent of military money has gone to Democrats for Congress and president, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Anti-war presidential candidates Barack Obama and Ron Paul are the top recipients of military money
>In the 2000 and 2002 election cycles, uniformed service members gave about three-quarters of their federal contributions to Republicans. The percentage dropped to 59 percent in the 2004 cycle and has remained there since. This shift toward Democrats is most visible among members of the Army, who gave 71 percent of their money to Republicans before the war began. So far this year, members of the Army have given a mere 51 percent to the GOP, spreading their contributions nearly evenly between the two major parties.
>The drop in contributions to Republicans—which began nearly the second the war in Iraq did in early 2003—seems to suggest that there is a passionate group of people in the armed services who are looking for ways to express their opinion, said John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute. “This [data] suggests that among the military, the people who feel most intensely about the Bush administration and the war in Iraq are negative about it,” Samples said. “It’s a general discontentment over the way the administration has handled the war—or even that we’re in a war.”

Although the amount of money being spent by members of the military is dwarfed by the amounts corporations and industry groups spend, the confluence of their closeness with the war and the war’s status as the most critical issue puts quite a bit of extra bang behind each buck. The most recent FEC data is from mid-July, so we’ll need more filing reports to be able to call the military’s move to the left a certifiable trend. It will be interesting to see how this trend responds to the recent report from General Petraeus and the recent claims that the surge has been a success.

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